Can Ugly Ducklings be Racist?

At the very least they can certainly cause offence….

Waitrose recently became the subject of much criticism about a decision to sell a three pack of ducks with the names Fluffy (white duck), Crispy (brown duck) and Ugly (black duck). This bizarre marketing choice resulted in a number of people complaining about racism, whilst others argued that a complaint about a chocolate egg is political correctness gone mad. Perhaps, but perhaps not. If the first two ducks had affectionate sounding names and the third had a derogatory name where the only difference between them is colour, it isn’t a stretch to conclude that somebody might be offended.

This issue demonstrates how easy it is for a business to inadvertently cause offence. The only distinguishing feature between the three ducks is colour. In our fantastically diverse society I’m sure that makes a number of those uncomfortable, irrespective of The colour of our own skin. There are plenty of things that hashtagEmployers can do to avoid this type of situation. As a start equality impact assessment forms should always be used when considering any hashtagRecruitment hashtagBranding or significant measure that impacts your people management strategy. hashtagDiversity and hashtagInclusion are words that should mean something more than box ticking. There are compelling commercial reasons why every employee (and every business) should have a detailed understanding of the society in which they operate. There are plenty of advisors around (including me!) that can support businesses to develop an inclusive workplace and comply with their duties under the hashtagEqualityAct. At the same time there is plenty of free guidance and some good template documents on either the Acas or the EHRC websites.

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